When it comes to PBs, triathletes possess the art of saying the same thing in a number of different ways to a degree that is usually found only in politicians. I was pondering this recently while watching my friend Anthony being cornered in a changing room by someone talking at length about his various race times.
Anthony made the fatal mistake of giving non-committal responses such as ‘That’s interesting,’ which of course really means ‘I’m not listening.’ Being his mate, of course I made no effort to help Anthony out. Instead I positioned myself in his eyeline but behind his tormentor’s back, and started laughing and making certain hand gestures.
Having been in Anthony’s position on several occasions, I’ve learned that there are a number of things he could have done to stem the tide of useless information:
1. Yawn expansively and then say: ‘Sorry – what were you saying?’ before yawning again.
2. Crush the PB bore’s ego by feigning momentary surprise and saying: ‘I thought you were quicker than that!’
3. Crush their ego (part two) by grinning hugely upon hearing their best time, then saying something along the lines of: ‘Oooooh, just slower than me!’
4. Crush their ego (part three) by saying: ‘Is that any good?’ (My wife is especially adept at this whenever I share my latest ‘triumph’, leaving me more deflated than the last balloon at a children’s party.)
5. Start theatrically clutching at your throat and gasping, saying: ‘Help! I can’t breathe – you’re sucking all the oxygen out of the room!’
6. If you’re in a changing room, take off all your clothes, and move closer and closer to the person doing the talking. Plaster a big smile on your face, perhaps putting one foot up on a bench right next to them. I guarantee this will make them lose their flow.
7. After they’ve finished, and are duty bound to ask about your times, decline to do so, saying: ‘I always think that telling people about my PBs is vulgar.’
Some of these strategies depend on a high degree of confidence, which is fine for someone of my overall gitness, who would think nothing of wrestling the crayons from the fingers of tiny children in order to record my latest time. But if you’re of a shyer disposition you run the risk of being condemned to stand there listening for hours, while suffering that same sinking feeling you get when you’re in a running race and you spot a mile marker up ahead… only to discover that it’s a ‘Caution: Runners’ sign. So summon up some nerve, take a deep breath and get yawning.
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